St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Friday, March 16, 2012

One Little, Two Little, Three Little.......

Just this week, another snippet of genealogy history for my family has made its way to my inbox.  Yes, another kidnapping has happened.  Ok, so it happened in 1782.  However, the tale easily brought  thoughts of horror at the events that took place on the CLOCK farm outside of present day Pittsburgh.

History reveals to the readers of today the struggles of the Indians as the white settlers moved west.  As the western part of Pennsylvania became open for settlement, many Scot-Irish, including those who share my blood, moved to the area.  Times were tough for these settlers.  They had to clear the land, and build crude cabins.  They had to plant crops and wait for a harvest.  They had to be on the lookout for trouble, which usually came in the form of Indian attacks. They had to survive.

Who can blame the Indians?  Treaties with them were routinely broken by the government.  Their world was rapidly changing as more and more settlers came to claim the land while Indians believed the land belonged to no one person.

The settlers had to watch daily for Indian attacks.  Usually these attacks were confined to the warmer months when living off the land was easier.  The Indians had been made promises by the British if they would assist them in the Revolution in fighting against the patriots who so wanted their freedom from the power across the pond.  This alliance proved quite deadly for the early settlers.  Now, the Indians could savagely attack and butcher said patriots without fear of retaliation from the British.  Unfortunately, for the Indians, the retaliation from mad-as-a-hornet Scotsmen or Irishmen or Frenchmen whose families were slaughtered seemed much worse.

Here is a snapshot of the newest Indian kidnapping and slaughter to come to my attention, thanks to cousin Susan.

Henry POTTER's young 10 year old daughter, Isabella, had gone to visit neighbors as was oft the case of the times.  Women and children had a habit of banding together when the men were off from their hastily constructed cabins.  Some roving Indians heard the men felling some trees and quickly killed them.  They then went to the cabin with the women and children around and either killed them or took them captive.  The gory details of the attack has been preserved by historians and can be read in full.

What horrors did young Isabella see as she watched her friends' heads being dashed against rocks or trees or brutally slaughtered?  What horrors did she and her mother endure as they were kidnapped by these Indians and held for 18 months? The history books say they lived a life of drudgery.  No doubt that is putting it mildly.

A search party led by George VALLANDIGHAM followed the events of that tragic day.  While this particular search had to end when the Indians crossed over the Ohio River, other treks led by George VALLANDIGHAM were successful.

Why the interest of this story to me?  The names POTTER and VALLANDIGHAM are intertwined with my beloved genealogy.

I have a cousin, Rachel DICKSON b. 1820 who married a Robert POTTER b. abt 1815. The DICKSON family lived in the same little area as the Henry POTTER family and others who share my blood.  I suspect that the young Isabella could have been a cousin of Robert.

Robert is listed as the son of Adam POTTER (1788-1870) whose name is mentioned on several public family trees on  By the time of the 1850 census which lists the names of the house occupants, Robert is gone and living with his bride. The 1820 census for Adam does show one male below the age of 10, so it is conceivable that Robert is this child.  More evidence to support Robert being the son of Adam is found in Cushing's book where it states that Adam POTTER with sons Robert and Adam are remembered as residents before 1820 in North Fayette.

Adam POTTER was an attorney in the area and his name is listed as an executor for the will of Henry POTTER.  I will speculate they were brothers.  After all, how many POTTER families living in the general area of Noblestown in the late 1700s thru the 1800s weren't related?

Just to make these snippet shots even more interesting in my research,  Isabella later married Robert BIGHAM (1805-1893). Robert married Jane GLENN (1812-1889), a cousin of mine through her grandfather who we share.

On to the VALLANDIGHAM connection----

My grandpa fought in the Washington Co Militia under the command of George VALLANDIGHAM.  This is documented through the PA Archives.  Other stories have surfaced over the years where my grandpa was also part of the group of men that hunted Indians that raided the area and massacred the settlers.  The VALLANDIGHAM family were friends of my family as Clement, son of George VALLANDIGHAM and Elizabeth NOBLE, and Rebecca LAIRD (Clement's wife) raised my cousin after the untimely death of Rebecca's sister.

Rebecca's sister, Eleanor LAIRD, died shortly after the birth of her only child, Margaret Eleanor Laird Vallandigham HENRY.  Margaret was the daughter of Samuel Smith HENRY who later becomes an Ohio State Representative.  An old letter details how Samuel would visit his child and provided for her and her future education.  Ahh, but that is another story for another day.

Now you can understand why the story of Isabella's kidnapping caught my attention.  Perhaps her story will give you pause to reflect on the blood shed in the making of our great country.

Ahh, genealogy.  Life flows on and on through our blood of the past.

Cushing, Thomas.  History of Allegheny Co, Chicago: A Warner Company, 1889 
Larimer, Rev Bob. A 200th Anniversary of Noblestown
Allegheny County Will Book 3
Probate Index, Holmes Co, OH 

©2012 AS Eldredge 


Steve Levin said...

Henry Potter is in my family line. What is your connection with this family?....Steve

Steve Levin said...

Actually Henry Potter is in my family line through Isabella. I am a decendent of Robert Bigham and Isabella Potter. My ancestor is Jane Bigham that you spoke of in your last post. She married James Walker of Allegheny county and they lived out their lives in Armstrong county eventually being buried in Crook Creek cemetery in Armstrong county. Any information on the Potter or Bigham family would be greatly appreciated as I have hit a brickwall with both families.